View Full Version : The DaVinci Code (very long)

02-06-2004, 08:30 AM
Not long ago a fellow CCB'er sent me this book and I loved it. Along the way I asked myself "Is it true, could it be?" Here's something for ya, read it or not.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/entertainment/news/celebrity/chi-0402050014feb05,0,1962668.story?coll=sfla-entertainment-headlinesThe Da Vinci Code' . . . unscrambled

The blockbuster thriller has millions talking theology, art and history. Yet many are unsure what's fact and what's fiction. We asked the experts for their reactions and their explanations.

By Patrick T. Reardon
Tribune staff reporter
Posted February 5 2004

Have you read 'The Da Vinci Code'?

'Just about everything [Dan Brown] says about Leonardo daVinci is wrong' -- Jack Wasserman, retired art history professor at Temple University

The book

Catholics scrutinize enigmatic Opus Dei
Dec 7, 2003

'Cracking the Da Vinci Code' by Margaret M. Mitchell

Sister -- dressed in her black habit with white wimple and armed with the muscular assurance of pre-Vatican II Catholicism as well as a long, mean ruler -- was not amused.

It was near the end of the one-woman interactive comedy "Late Nite Catechism," and here, suddenly, was a questioner from the audience who wanted to know if Jesus and Mary Magdalene, you know, kissed . . . and, well, like, didn't stop there.

Lynda Shadrake, who was portraying Sister that night, had to be quick on her feet to respond to the question which had its roots in the international bestselling thriller, "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown (Doubleday, 454 pages, $24.95)

The novel -- which has more than 5.8 million copies in print, has ranked 1st on the New York Times best seller list for 44 straight weeks and is being translated into more than 40 languages -- has transcended its genre, having an impact on the general public's views of religion, art, history and sexual politics.

Not only does the book feature murders, conspiracies and betrayals, but it also posits a raft of deep dark secrets about sex, lies, the Catholic Church, Leonardo DaVinci and Jesus.

Shadrake and the other five actresses who bring Sister to life in "Late Nite Catechism" shows around the Chicago region aren't the only ones who have had to deal with awkward questions about alleged secrets that, if widely known, would confront the Vatican with "a crisis of faith unprecedented in its two-millennium history," according to one of Brown's characters.

Bible scholars and art historians, priests and the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei, even the organization overseeing an obscure Scottish ruin, have been badgered with questions about the accuracy of the book's assertions.

And some have worried about the impact of the book's version of history. "The danger of a book like that," Shadrake says, "is that people will read it and assume that the things in the book are true."

For Shadrake, the questions began a month or so before Christmas.

Toward the end of each performance of "Catechism," Sister opens the floor for questions from the audience, whom she treats like a classroom of truculent parochial school students.

"Most of the time, the questions are: Do you have hair under there? Do you ever go to the bathroom?" says Shadrake who has portrayed Sister for the past 4 1/2 years.

"Then I started getting questions: What do you think about Mary Magdalene and Jesus? Is it true Mary Magdalene kissed Jesus on the mouth?" The questioners were quick to explain how "The Da Vinci Code" asserts that not only did Jesus and Mary kiss, but also that they were married and had a child together.

Knotty questions, particularly for someone who, at the time, hadn't read the book. So, Shadrake, as Sister, did what any 1950s-era nun would have done in such a case:

"I'd say, 'Mister, when you went to the library or the bookstore for that book, what section did you find it in?'

"And he'd sheepishly say, 'Fiction.'

"And I'd go to the blackboard and write, 'F-I-C-T-I-O-N.' "

That's still Shadrake's response -- she has since read the book -- and it's the response that the other actresses have adopted as well. It's simple. It's clean. And it certainly fits the character.

Here are some responses to the book that people in other fields have developed:

A Catholic priest

Rev. James Halstead, chairman of the religious studies department at DePaul University, has preached on "The Da Vinci Code" at St. Nicholas Church in Evanston during Sunday mass.

"For storytelling, I give it an A," Halstead says. "Knowledge of the history of theology and the history of the church, C-minus. Systematic theology proposed and favored in the text, an F. What the book is favoring is: Let's go back to the days when heterosexual intercourse was the highest good. This book celebrates fertility cults. That's not a good systematic theology.

"But it's a great read."

Although some, including Cardinal Francis George, the head of the Chicago archdiocese, have suggested that the book could undermine the faith of its readers, Halstead says, "As an academic, I'm not worried about that danger. What it will do is raise questions. It can start a grand conversation."

Indeed, he says, it's already led to conversations he has had about sexuality, love and the church with students and parishioners.

"It's been a springboard for me to talk about the history of the development of Christian theology in the 4th Century and the 21st Century."

Scholar of the New Testament and early Christian church history

Margaret M. Mitchell, chairwoman of the Department of New Testament and Early Christian Literature at the University of Chicago, had fielded a couple of dozen questions about "The Da Vinci Code" when, in September, she decided to write a short analysis of its failings.

In an interview, Mitchell explains, "We shouldn't cede the field to para-scholarship or novels. If you go into Barnes & Noble or to Borders, the religion shelf is unbelievably undifferentiated. For the person not trained in religious studies, it's almost impossible to know what books are written by real scholars."

Since publishing her response in a weekly digital journal of the U. of C. Divinity School, it has been widely read on the Internet. "I get an e-mail every other day or every three days about it."

The full response can be found at http://marty-center.uchicago.edu/sightin gs/archive_2003/0924.shtml.

Here's how it begins:

"This is a good airplane book, a novelistic thriller that presents a rummage sale of accurate historical nuggets alongside falsehoods and misleading statements. The bottom line: The book should come coded for `black light,' like the pen used by the character Sauniere to record his dying words, so that readers could scan pages to see which `facts' are trustworthy and which patently not."

Among the book's statements that Mitchell labels as "patently inaccurate" are:

- That, during his own lifetime during his life, Jesus "inspired millions to better lives."

- That there were "more than eighty gospels." (Mitchell notes, "The number 80 is factual-sounding, but has no basis.")

- That a marriage of Mary Magdalene and Jesus is "a matter of historical record."

- That Constantine invented the divinity of Jesus and excluded all gospels but the four canonical ones.

Among the "gray areas" that Mitchell cites is an assertion in the novel that "the vestiges of pagan religion in Christian symbology are undeniable."

That's true, she writes, "but that does not mean [as Brown writes] `Nothing in Christianity is original.' The relationship between early Christianity and the world around it, the ways in which it was culturally embedded in that world, sometimes unreflectively, sometimes reflexively, sometimes in deliberate accommodation, sometimes in deliberate co-optation, is far more complicated than the simplistic myth of Constantine's Stalinesque program of cultural totalitarianism."

And she adds, "While obsessing over Mary Magdalene, `The Da Vinci Code' ignores completely the rise and incredible durability and power of the other Mary, the mother of Jesus, and devotion to her which follows many patterns of `goddess' veneration (she even gets Athena's Parthenon dedicated to her in the 6th Century)."

Opus Dei

The 76-year-old Opus Dei, which seeks to promote traditional Catholic values through exemplary conduct, has often been a target of more liberal Catholics who characterize the group as elitist and overly aggressive in church politics.

Such criticisms, though, had started to wane in the aftermath of Pope John Paul II's 2002 elevation of Opus Dei founder Msgr. Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer to sainthood, says Brian Finnerty, the U.S. spokesman for the predominantly lay organization.

Then came Brown's book -- with its depiction of Opus Dei as extremists who would even kill to advance their agenda.

"We got one e-mail that said, `Why are you guys hiding the truth about the Priory of Sion?' We had another that said, `My child is not going through with Confirmation because of the book,'" Finnerty reports. "The worst part about the book is the claim that the Catholic Church is a hoax."

In response to such questions, the group posted a response on its Web site. Here's an excerpt:

"`The Da Vinci Code' . . . gives a bizarre and inaccurate portrayal of the Catholic institution Opus Dei. The numerous inaccuracies range from simple factual errors to outrageous and false depictions of criminal or pathological behavior.

For example, the novel depicts members of Opus Dei practicing gruesome corporal mortifications and murdering people, implies that Opus Dei coerces or brainwashes people, suggests that Opus Dei has drugged new members to induce religious experiences, and insinuates that Opus Dei bailed out the Vatican bank in return for its establishment as a personal prelature.

All of this is absurd nonsense.

"In short, `The DaVinci Code' is a work of fiction. Promoting it as anything more would be dishonest to the novel's readers, and disrespectful to the faith of millions of Catholics and other Christians."

A da Vinci expert

Jack Wasserman's recent talk at the Philadelphia Museum of Art was about Michelangelo, but, afterward, all anyone wanted to talk about with him was Leonardo da Vinci and "The Da Vinci Code."

The novel portrays Leonardo as an opponent of the Catholic Church who sent secret messages in his art that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child together.

"Just about everything [Dan Brown] says about Leonardo da Vinci is wrong," says Wasserman, a retired art history professor at Temple University in Philadelphia and noted expert on the artist. "The writer, I think, gives the impression that he's also a historian -- which he is not. I don't think he's so much interested in the truth as in drama and mystery."

As an example of the book's inaccuracies, Wasserman points to Brown's identification of the figure to Jesus' right in da Vinci's painting, "The Last Supper," as Mary Magdalene.

"That figure looks effeminate, but that doesn't mean it's a woman," says Wasserman, noting that the apostle John often is portrayed in art as thin and clean-shaven. "Christ had 12 apostles at the Last Supper. If this person is a woman, what happened to the 12th apostle?"

Reading the book, Wasserman says, was a trial: "I couldn't stand it. When you read a book and so much of it is nonsense, I just couldn't get from page to page without throwing a fit."

Still, he doesn't fear the impact of the book on da Vinci's reputation.

"All misinformation is harmful," he says. "But, in the end, it's not going to matter. When you're dealing with a great man like Leonardo da Vinci, his heart is so great, his intellectual contributions so enormous, they transcend the momentary disinformation [of Brown's book]."

Rosslyn Chapel

According to Brown's book, Rosslyn Chapel, outside of Edinburgh, Scotland, has been an important site for a secret society that, for centuries, has protected evidence of the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, waiting for the right moment to make it public.

Stuart Beattie, director at the chapel, begun in 1446 but never completed, says he gives this answer to those who ask questions prompted by the Brown book or others that suggest similar connections:

"The Chapel is an enigma, and depending on an individual's particular line of thinking, the Chapel can show evidence to support that. There are clear links with the Templars, Freemasons, Sinclairs the world over, Americans (for the carvings of plants predating their discovery by 100 years), those of religious persuasion, esoterics, paganists, historians, medievalists and those who come just to wonder. We at Rosslyn enjoy all those that come to see the Chapel and to wonder. We listen to their questions or theories."

The Louvre

Although "The Da Vinci Code" opens with a murder in the Louvre and makes many claims about hidden meanings in the art there, Aggy Lerolle, the museum's communications director, says she hasn't been flooded with questions about the accuracy of Brown's book -- far from it.

"You're the first one," she tells the Tribune during a phone interview.

Museum officials know about the book and its massive success in the U.S. and the U.K., but haven't read it yet.

"We're waiting for the French edition," Lerolle says.

Besides, she says, "There's no point in saying anything because it's fiction."

Nonetheless, Lerolle finds at least one assertion in the book outrageous. When told that Brown asserts in his novel that the security cameras in the museum are just for show and don't actually work, she gasps.

"That's nasty!" she says. "Why did he say that?"


Gayle in MD
02-06-2004, 09:41 AM
Hi Kato,
Interesting post, and thanks for the link. I enjoyed the documentary shown on TV so much, I purchased a copy of it. It was certainly thought provoking. Haven't bought the book yet, but intend to get it.

One thing which I am interested in researching when I get the chance, who was The Virgin Mary? I have never come accross anything about her in my readings. Where was she born, where was she burried? What was her maiden name?
It is interesting that there are two Mary's involved in the story of Jesus, with two such opposite characterizations.

Also, have you seen the program that was aired about the book? I would be happy to mail it to you If you like. I had psoted about it, but dropped the subject when it seemed to be turing into an arguement. Have never understood why people are threatened by differences of opinion about religeon.

Have a great day Kato...
Gayle in Md.

02-06-2004, 10:45 AM
Hi Gayle. No I didn't see it but would like to. Do you still have my address?


PS. I do not like to argue religion but am completely fascinated by it.

02-06-2004, 11:28 AM
Yep. That's "very long". Was I actually supposed to read it? /ccboard/images/graemlins/laugh.gif

"I don't think I've ever read a book"~~Johnny Archer

Got any links to the JFK conspiracy? /ccboard/images/graemlins/wink.gif

02-06-2004, 11:31 AM
If you want to know about JFK you should simply send Phil a PM. He knows everything about everything and he may or may not have websites for you.

Kato~~~jeez Wally, I thought the article was interesting /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif.............just a tad long /ccboard/images/graemlins/laugh.gif

02-06-2004, 12:44 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Kato:</font><hr> If you want to know about JFK you should simply send Phil a PM. He knows everything about everything and he may or may not have websites for you.

<font color="blue">Oswald killed JFK. He was nuts. Plain and simple </font color>

Kato~~~jeez Wally, I thought the article was interesting /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif.............just a tad long /ccboard/images/graemlins/laugh.gif

<font color="blue">sorry. I'm just not big on conspiracy theories. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smirk.gif </font color> <hr /></blockquote>

02-06-2004, 01:04 PM
Shows what you know Wally.

It's obviously the Cubans, Russian's, and Romulan's.

Kato~~~I thought everyone knew that /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif

02-06-2004, 05:28 PM
Well Kato, I just finished the "Harry Potter" collection and was about to pick up "The DaVinci Code', but the "Lord of the Rings" all-three-in-one book caught my eye and since I haven't read that since high school, I decided to give it another earnest try. I think I gave up after the prologue on Hobbits and bought the Cliff notes.

But "The DaVinci Code" will be next.

After "The Far Side Collection", that is...


02-09-2004, 02:52 AM
Read "Demons and Angels" by Dan Brown (same author) it'll give you something to think about,hmmmmmmmmmm--take a look at the back of a one dollar bill-you'll see the pyramid with the all-seeing eye-hm-Masons-gives you something to think about!

02-09-2004, 02:56 AM
i don't know if it's true or not, but I've heard that just about every one of our presidents has been a member of the Freemasons guild...does anyone know about this?


02-09-2004, 05:17 AM

02-09-2004, 08:10 AM
It's obviously the Cubans, Russian's, and Romulan's.

Kato~~~I thought everyone knew that <hr /></blockquote> Yep, and we really landed/walked on the moon. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif


02-09-2004, 08:57 AM
Them or one of the other world controlling organizations.